Just how bad is a multi-column form layout? This short study conducted through CXL Institute compares form completion time on a single column form vs. a multicolumn form.
Will the same questions with a different layout (one column versus multiple columns) result in different completion times?
- The single-column form was faster to complete.
- Survey participants completed the linear, single-column form (n = 356) an average of 15.4 seconds faster than the multi-column form (n = 346). This was significantly faster at a 95% confidence level.
How do I apply this research?
- If you're using multi-column forms, or thinking of, don't. The more linear the better.
- This study should provide you with more direct evidence (data) to fight anyone who thinks otherwise.
Avoiding multi-column forms is relatively well known. Here are the often-cited authority sources:
But there isn’t a lot of actual quantitative data out there, like how it affects form completion time. For the studies that are out there, most are qualitative insights (see those mentioned above) from very few test subjects, and even when it is “quantitative,” it was done years ago and involved on 8 people for eye-tracking results…really?!
This study is a simple one. We presented our “Trust Seal” survey to a bunch of people and half saw a single layout form and the other saw a multi-column form. We then just looked for differences in form completion.
Data Collection Methods and Operations:
The survey was sent out in early June 2016. A total of 702 participants filled out the forms (n = 346 for the multi-column form, and n = 356 for the linear form). We restricted the survey to desktop users.
We ran a simple 2-sample t-test to compare the results. Here they are:
So, the single-column form performed much better than the multi-column form.
Limitations & Additional Study Ideas
Our form variations here are unique, in that they asked a set amount of questions, had certain types of questions, had labels presented in a particular way, etc. These results are therefore not directly transferable to all form types and situations.
With so many types of forms and situations, there’s still a lot to test. Particularly we’re interested in effects of form field types, such as multi-select vs. radio buttons across different platforms. Though label placement is also something that would be good to have data on.
The single-column form was faster to complete.Survey participants completed the linear, single-column form an average of 15.4 seconds faster than the multi-column form. This was significantly faster at a 95% confidence level.
If you’re using multi-column forms, or thinking of, don’t. The more linear the better.